ADVERTISEMENT
Advertise Here

Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: witness tampering

No witness tampering in Mehring case

The Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office has declined to charge former Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick and City Attorney Rocky Treppiedi with witness tampering in a wrongful termination case the city eventually lost and is currently on the hook for about $1.5 million in damages and attorneys fees.

The complaint, was filed in October by an attorney for Spokane Police Officer Jay Mehring, alleged that Kirkpatrick and Treppiedi failed to renew a contract of a police psychologist Deanette Palmer after she deemed Mehring fit for duty following allegations the officer threatened to kill his estranged wife.

The allegations came during a messy divorce, and a jury later sided with Mehring and awarded him $722,000 in damages and a judge approved $833,00 in fees to attorney Bob Dunn.

Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich asked the Washington State Patrol to investigate and that report was forwarded to Chief Deputy Prosecutor Jack Driscoll for review. Driscoll declined to file charges, according to a news release.

Past coverage:

Nov. 5: Jury awards Mehring $700,000

Oct. 5: Spokane police detective alleges witness tampering

Elderly theft suspect arrested again

A man accused of draining a 106-year-old woman's retirement savings was arrested in Spokane after missing a court appearance.

John H. “Herb” Friedlund, 78, failed to appear for an arraignment on a witness tampering charge last month in Spokane County Superiro Court. He was arrested Wednesday on a $10,000 warrant and appeared in court Thursday where Judge Jerome Leveque allowed him to be released from jail on his own recognizance.

Friedlund faces theft charges in Stevens County for allegedly stealing money from Frances T. Swan, whom he was caring for in Kettle Falls.

Deputies found Swan covered in filth and begging for food in May after Friedlund asked them to retrieve his medicine from the home before he was taken to jail in an animal cruelty investigation.

Friedlund left jail in June on $25,000 bond by Carl “Rich” Jessen, an agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Prosecutors allege Friedlund spent Swan's money on vehicles, a horse trailer and a man’s surgery in Texas.

Friedlund is accused of calling that man, Steven M. Smith, in August asking him to tell investigators that Swan authorized previous money transfers from Friedlund to Smith totaling about $225,000. Authorities believe the calls took place in Spokane County.

Past coverage:

Aug. 4: Caretaker's alleged spending outlined

Aug. 2: Elder neglect suspect arrested for felony theft

Aug. 2: Theft charges likely in 106-year-old's case

June 21: Man held after police find famished woman

Judge calls Mehring case ‘dysfunctional’

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Kathleen O'Connor had choice words Thursday for attorneys on both sides of the Jay Mehring civil case.

The wrongful termination and defamation lawsuit filed by the Spokane police detective against the city of Spokane and police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick is set to go to a jury trial Oct. 17, and O'Connor says she's lost her patience with the problems that keep arising. 

She ordered attorneys Bob Dunn and Ellen O'Hara to appear before her this afternoon “no matter what” with an agreed upon statement in the case and a list of issues that are in dispute and issues that aren't.

She threatened to hold the lawyers in contempt if they weren't able to do so “because I am sick of this.”

The judge also warned that she would have no time to look at motions for reconsideration, “so assume that they're all going to be denied.”

At one point, Dunn stood up, but only for a moment. “Counsel, I'm not done. Sit down,” O'Connor said.

The judge also picked up a report she said had been submitted that morning in violation of a previous order.

“See this? The one I got today? In the waste basket!” she said, holding up the waste basket and tossing the report inside. “Do you understand how dysfunctional this trial is?”

“Do you understand I never have these types of problems in any other cases?” she continued. “I've just lost my patience with all of you.”

O'Connor's criticism came at the end of a hearing in which she ordered the City of Spokane to produce emails regarding its contract with a police department psychologist who's part of a witness tampering allegation by Mehring against Kirkpatrick and city attorneys.

They contend the city didn't renew Deanette Palmer's contract because she had ruled he was fit to return to duty. Ellen O'Hara, an assistant attorney for the City of Spokane, blasted the witness tampering claim in court Thursday, calling it baseless and “literally defaming.”

O'Hara said the city has always planned to renew Palmer's contract. City Attorney Rocky Treppiedi “is a very busy man,” O'Hara said. “This is a minor $10,000 to $15,000 contract. It was not on top of his list and he didn't get to it. And he even apologized to Dr. Palmer.

O'Hara continued, “What this really is is an attempt by the plaintiff to smear Chief Kirkpatrick and the city” and to use the media to taint the jury pool by building on “all the smearing” from the Otto Zehm-Karl Thompson case.

She called the allegations “an absurd sideshow - one of many that are gong to be attempted to be presented din this case.”

“Dr. Palmer is not saying that the city obstructed her. She fell between a rock and a hard place,” O'Hara said. “It's clear to Dr. Palmer and the city that the chief wants the contract renewed.”

O'Hara also said, “This is beyond unbelievable to me that this is happening,” prompting O'Connor to say, “Well, I gather that. Why don't you sit down now.”

Dunn emphasized that when asked in deposition if she felt her work with Mehring had adversely affected her contract with the city, Palmer responded, “definitely.” But Palmer also said she didn't feel Kirkpatrick did anything unfair regarding her testifying in the criminal trial and that she didn't ahve “beef” with the chief.

“I said clearly that the issue was with the City Attorney's office,” Palmer said.  (Read the entire transcript of Palmer's deposition here.)

O'Connor said the issue could be discussed during the civil trial, and emails outlining the issue could be entered as evidence. She denied Dunn's request for Palmer's emails but ordered the City to hand over the copies.

“The issue of its relevancy goes to whether or not there's any bias on the part of Dr. Palmer or any attempt to have Dr. Palmer changer her position or testify differently at trial,” O'Connor said. “If such an email exists - and I'm not suggesting that it does - that would certainly be relevant.”

Mehring, 43, has been on paid leave since Sept. 9, 2010, after Kirkpatrick said he was unfit for duty based on claims he'd made in his lawsuit.

Mehring filed the lawsuit after a jury acquitted him of charges that he'd threatened to kill his wife. Kirkpatrick had put him unpaid leave but reinstated him with back pay and a demotion.

Tampering alleged in Mehring civil case

A Spokane Police detective has filed a formal complaint asking the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office to investigate allegations that Chief Anne Kirkpatrick and city attorneys have engaged in felony witness tampering.

 Detective Jay Mehring filed the complaint with the sheriff’s office Sunday, alleging that the city refused to renew a contract with the department’s longtime psychologist after she gave an opinion favorable to Mehring as part of his $3.5 million civil suit against the city. That suit alleges he was wrongfully terminated in 2007 amid reports that he threatened to harm his wife.

City Spokeswoman Marlene Feist said Tuesday that the City denies any allegation of witness tampering.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

Oct. 4, 2010: Detective in civil suit on leave

Tampering alleged before murder trial

A Spokane man whose guilty plea was overturned because of a sentencing error is accused of trying to intimidate a witness in his upcoming trial.

Michael Duke Coombes, 31, appeared in court Monday on a witness tampering charge after investigators say he asked another inmate at the Spokane County Jail to contact a man expected to testify at his trial in November.

The man, identified in documents as Eric Nelson, testified at Coombes’ first trial that Coombes had described killing the victim, 53-year-old William R. Nichols, by shooting him in the head.

Coombes allegedly gave notes to the inmate, Tevan T. Williams, convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm, that encouraged him to “either let me know where he’s at, or shut him up before I go to trial….he just has to say I made it up and I'm home free,” according to court documents.

Coombes included Nelson's parents' addresses in his note to Williams and emphasized that Nelson's original interviews with police about the murder were voluntary, documents allege.

Trip to concert leads to fugitive warrant

UPDATE: Stafone Fuentes was booked into jail Saturday and is due in court today.

A Spokane man is wanted on a felony warrant after his unauthorized trip to a concert in Montana was publicized because his uncle was killed outside the show.

  Stafone Nicholas Fuentes, 26, (right) was awaiting trial on witness tampering charges when he was arrested on misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct charges at the hospital where his uncle, Angelo Lorenzo Fuentes, 41, (left) also of Spokane, was pronounced dead from a traumatic head injury.

Missoula police believe the elder Fuentes was mortally wounded during a fight outside the concert late June 17 at the Missoula Hell Gate Elks Lodge.

Sgt. Travis Welsh of the Missoula Police Department said investigators are seeking witnesses in Fuentes’ death, some of whom may be from Spokane.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

June 20: Spokane man dies of head trauma in Missoula

Fair-weather murder witness charged

A man who backed out of an agreement to testify at a fellow gang member's murder trial has been charged with two felonies for his alleged involvement in the slaying.

Antonio E. Cook, 29, appeared in Superior Court Monday on charges of conspiracy to commit first-degree assault and first-degree rendering criminal assistance.

He's accused of conspiring with accused killer Edward Lee “T.D.” Thomas to commit the assault that led to the death of John S. Williams, and of helping hide Thomas when he was sought on a first-degree murder charge. DNA found on the rifle used to kill Williams matched Thomas' DNA, according to court documents.

Cook has confessed to providing the weapon to Thomas and has said that Thomas was angry with a gang member who had “disrespected him,” according to court documents.

Thomas was driven from the murder scene by Cedric E. “Dirty” Burton, who is in prison for rendering criminal assistance. Police say Thomas went to Cook's house after the shooting and stayed there until the next day.

Police wanted Cook charged with second-degree murder under the state's accomplice law, but prosecutors instead opted for the assault charge.

It's the third felony case filed against Cook since June, after it became clear he would not be testifying against Thomas, who's to stand trial Aug. 22.

Cook already is due to serve 22 months after pleading guilty in May to unrelated third-degree assault and witness tampering charges. He's already awaiting sentencing after a jury convicted him last week of first-degree burglary, fourth-degree assault and witness tampering for an unrelated domestic violence case.

Accused would-be killer jailed, again

A suspect in a stabbing that left a man with a cut on his throat from ear to ear is back in jail after detectives say he tried to intimidate witnesses in the case.

 Izaac Jermel Innes, who is on probation for second-degree murder, called several people after his arrested and asked them to try to persuade witnesses to change their stories, according to an affidavit filed Tuesday.

Innes, who was free on $50,000 bond, was arrested Tuesday night and appeared in Superior Court on Wednesday, where Judge Michael Price set his new bail at $100,000 for intimidating a witness and two counts of tampering with a witness.

Innes, a self-proclaimed member of the Deuce Avenue Crips, also pleaded not guilty Wednesday to attempted first-degree murder for the alleged incident outside a party in the 12700 block of East 31st Ave. April 2.

Innes, 30, was released from prison in January after serving time for a second-degree murder conviction from 2003.

Past coverage:

April 8: Convicted killer charged w/ attempted murder

Boyfriend in fatal crash gets 15 years

A Spokane man involved in a carjacking that led to a fiery crash that killed his girlfriend has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Michael L. Olson, 32, pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery and two counts of tampering with a witness and was sentenced recently to 180 months in prison by Spokane County Superior Court Judge Greg Sypolt. 

Olson was arrested in June 2009 after Marjorie A. “Amy” Harrigan, 24, died when she was thrown from a carjacked 2002 Acura RSX during a police chase on Indiana Avenue just east of Ruby Street.

The Acura struck a tree and ripped in two (pictured above); authorities said Harrigan, who was driving, was killed instantly.

Police say the couple stole the car after meeting its owner, Christopher T. Fuller, at Ace's Casino and asking him for a ride to retrieve a borrowed pickup.

The two assaulted Fuller and forced him out of the vehicle near Perry and Cataldo streets. Police spotted the Acura and the truck driving on Nettleton Street near Euclid Avenue, and both took off at high speeds.

Harrigan crashed and died; Olson escaped in the truck but was arrested later that night.

A few months later, police seized letters from his mother's home that were written by Olson and apparently discussed plans to kill Fuller. Detectives said they learned from Olson’s cellmate that Olson wanted him to kill Fuller, which led to the witness tampering convictions.

Olson had previous felony convictions for drugs and theft. He was sentenced Dec. 17.

Get blog updates by email

About this blog

Public safety news from the Inland Northwest and beyond.

Latest comments »

Read all the posts from recent conversations on Sirens & Gavels.

Search this blog
Subscribe to this blog
ADVERTISEMENT
Advertise Here